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Pinto’s picks for 2010

Following are some picks for the top-five automation technologies that will make an impact this year, writes Jim Pinto.

Industrial wireless: Wireless is an enabling technology for new applications beyond just wire-replacement. My hunch is that completely new applications will emerge with new wireless capabilities. We’ll see more and more wireless products announced in this coming year, with standards being just an incidental nicety. It could spark a new phase of growth that will re-energise industrial automation.

Embedded intelligence & M2M: The ‘pervasive internet’ is still emerging in industrial markets. In spite of the economic slowdown, perhaps because of it, M2M will burst through in the coming decade with a plethora of products and applications. Most large assets will include self-monitoring procedures, reporting up the hierarchy with information such as uptime & downtime, diagnostics, usage and failure patterns, and more. All this will become available at an affordable price, generating new revenue growth for leaders.

Cloud-computing & software as a service (SaaS): This is a burgeoning new area in commercial and office business, and growth will spill over into factories and process plants. All but the most critical components will be run “in the cloud”. The switch will occur simply because of the growing burden of technology obsolescence of capitalised hardware and continuing support.

Plant & factory security systems: Most of today’s automation & control systems use the same hardware and communications as broadly deployed networks. Apart from deliberate hacking, worms and trojans can enter through mainstream systems. Automation systems security has become an urgent issue, perhaps even a critical one. Effective security protection solutions and services will generate good growth.

Consumer products: Automation rarely comes up with head-turning tech break-throughs. Most high-tech gadgetry emerges first in the consumer arena (see next eNews item). But rapid advances and low-cost availability will see plant and factory personnel with iPhones and Blackberrys and Android phones in their pockets, with lots of low-cost industrial apps available. Get your Blackberry to send you a bulletin when your boiler blows. Put your annunciator alarms on your Android. Peek at your process panels with your iPhone — there’s an App for that.

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